Month: June 2021

Environmental Justice for Gordon Plaza | Systematic Failure to Protect Health

Washington (GGM) Analysis | June 7, 2021 by author and climate journalist Noreen Wise

Gordon Plaza is a subdivision in the New Orlean’s Desire neighborhood that was developed on the ASL hazardous waste site in the early 1980’s. The first residents, excited about securing their little piece of the pie, moved into their new homes in 1981, 40 years ago. Most of the houses are modest ranches with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, on 5,000 square ft lots. The properties were federally funded and intentionally marketed as affordable housing to low income wage earners seeking an opportunity to move on up. 

Black American public culture in 1981 was framed in part by the award winning sitcom, The Jeffersons, which aired each week on CBS from 1975 – 1985. Moving on Up was the upbeat theme song: “Movin’ on up, To the east side. We finally got a piece of the pie… Took a whole lot of tryin’, Just to get up that hill. Now we’re up in the big leagues, Gettin’ our turn at bat.” The song writers are Jeff Barry and Ja’net Dubois. It seems highly probable that there were many subdivision developers and realtors across the country who were selling to black communities and linking their sales pitches to this inspirational sentiment in the hopes of motivating potential black buyers to take the plunge. Interestingly, 1981 was the year that Isabel Sanford was the first black woman to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Louise “Weezy” in The Jeffersons.  

This tidy grid of streets in New Orlean’s 9th Ward, was federally funded through HUD as well as the Community Development Block Grant Program. Back in 1981, when potential buyers were shopping around, they were apparently kept in the dark about the former hazardous waste dump. They’ve pointed out often that they felt they were duped into buying homes in Gordon Plaza. 

The history of Agriculture Street Landfill (ASL) makes this shameful failure to inform all the more egregious. The area had been plagued with spontaneous combustion during the 1950’s when the dangerous toxins would regularly mix beneath the surface. Drivers back then would have to slow to a crawl, inching along at 10 miles per hour, guided by the police, on days when the air became so thick with toxic smoke that visibility was impaired. New Orleans Historical website notes that back in the day, this location used to be referred to as Dante’s Inferno. 

Gordon Plaza was designated a Superfund cleanup site in 1994. 

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The Gordon Plaza residents’ hellacious plight drew international attention in December of 2019 when The Guardian featured the subdivision in its series Cancer Town. This was following the 2019 Louisiana Tumor Registry listing Gordon Plaza as having the second highest cancer rate in Louisiana.

Heart of the matter. After decades of fighting for fully funded relocation, and winning several class action lawsuits against city agencies and insurance companies, as described in The Guardian piece, residents have yet to be paid any money from the lawsuits, or to be relocated to safe grounds. Protesting regularly, Gordon Plaza residents showcase a remarkable amount of grit and determination in their quest to receive what they deserve, and are asking for.

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Shockingly, the mistreatment of the Gordon Plaza residents is pretty consistent across the United States for low income minority communities. At a recent Senate Subcommittee hearing on Public Works and Environmental Justice, Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) pointed out that “Seventy percent of the nation’s most environmentally contaminated sites are located within just one mile of federal assisted housing.” This stark reality shows a system of abuse and environmental injustice towards minority low income wage earners, and is very effective in explaining why the dire situation at Gordon Plaza has been ignored. No governmental agency, or city leader should be holding a blind eye to the shocking injustice.

In a request of New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell for comment, a City Hall spokesperson responded: “The City is exploring the feasibility of returning the Agriculture St. Landfill Superfund site to a productive use. As part of that process, the Cantrell Administration, unlike any previous administration, has reached out to Gordon Plaza residents to gauge their interest in redeveloping the site. The responses we’ve received have confirmed that while some residents adamantly favor a relocation and then redevelopment of the site, other residents want to stay in the neighborhood they call home. This is a complicated issue, and the City is working towards an amicable solution that will satisfy all of the interests of the residents.”

A recent article written by staff writer Halle Parker for nola.com outlined that there are 54 families seeking fully funded relocation. The conflict revolves around what the city thinks is a fair market value and what residents feel is the fair market value. Halle Parker featured a comment by Gordon Plaza resident Leona Floyd in her March 15, 2021 article:

“We are rightfully due the full compensation for our house, not a devalued amount as a result of the city of New Orleans building our homes on toxic soil. We know that fair market value will not be fair to us, and we should not go into debt moving out of a situation that was presented to us as part of the American Dream.”

A quick online search, which doesn’t necessarily mean anything, shows what appears to be a gap of approximately $70,000. It looks like a home in the area that is not on toxic land is valued at approximately $85,000, but a comp home is only worth $15,00 if the property is on the extremely dangerous superfund site. If this is the heart of the matter, then it’s clear why the issue hasn’t been resolved. Is there anyone who would settle for this microscopic amount after being misled from the start four decades earlier, which resulted in a cascade of endless heartache and suffering? No weekly television series is ever produced about this “piece of the pie.” But if we all collectively amplify the Gordon Plaza SOS message each week, it will hopefully net a positive outcome for these traumatized residents who are on the front lines of environmental and climate inequities in the United States.

The Gordon Plaza residents certainly deserve the Outstanding Fighters award.

Next Step

New Orleans is on the front lines of the climate crisis, with regular flooding, high heat, and endless hurricanes. In fact, the sate of Louisiana loses 25-35 miles of coastline per year from rising water levels. Additionally, there is the increased hazard of the wet bulb temperature that will potentially increase toxicity levels on the chemicals stuffed beneath the surface of Gordon Plaza. Ten years ago, back in June of 2011, the EPA became worried about it’s inability to protect human health and the environment in the age of climate change. The EPA asked states to draft Climate Change Adaptation Plans. Louisiana was one of only 14 states that did not comply and thus Louisiana has no Climate Change Adaptation Plan. Yet Louisiana is on the front lines of climate change with a large number of citizens living in environmental justice communities with climate taking a direct toll their health.

Be sure to check back for updates.

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Top 5 Vegan Beauty Brands | Vegan Scene

Washington (GGM) Analysis | June 2, 2021 by Sarah J. Kings

Consumer ethics has never been such a hot topic!  Compassionate and eco-friendly shoppers are searching for resources and products everyday. With many making changes in their diet and fashion choices, there has never been a better time to switch out your old cosmetics and trade them in for vegan alternatives. Vegan beauty brands do not rely on animal cruelty and animal products or biproducts to create makeup. Here is a list of five major vegan and cruelty free beauty brands that are focused on both ethics and sustainability. 

KVD Beauty- Kat Von D’s makeup line has been cruelly-free since its launch in 2008. The brand came out with its first vegan product, tattoo liner, in 2010. The Tattoo Liner sold like hotcakes, and is still one the most popular items today. KVD announced the switch to a vegan line in 2015, and went completely vegan in 2016. Today they boast the slogan “made with love, not animals.” They are also committed to not using bee’s wax, which is a big help to the environment.

Twitter- @guadalahari

NYX- NYX Professional Makeup is a PETA approved cruelty-free brand. They are well known for creating pigmented palettes and bold makeup trends. NYX is owned by L’Oreal, who recently released a statement about their commitment to meeting consumer demands for ethics and sustainable products. “To meet the changing expectations of our consumers, we are continuously innovating… [in] maintaining consistency in the quality of the product while also improving their environmental impact.”

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MILK- The brand has always been cruelty- free, and in 2018 co-founder Dianna Ruth announced that MILK would convert to 100% vegan formulas as well. MILK’s commitment to sustainability comes in the form of water reduction. The brand has shed  light on excess water usage in cosmetics, and they are responding  by designing concentrated formulas that do not waste water. Their products are also formaldehyde free. This is significant, as formaldehyde is known to be detrimental to marine life.

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Rare Beauty- Rare Beauty is something completely brand new! Singer, actress, and producer Selena Gomez is coming out with a beauty brand on September 3rd, and it is 100% vegan and cruelty-free. In an Instagram post Selena said this, “for the past few months, you’ve all been asking… and we’re proud to share that our products will be 100% vegan and cruelty-free. Like you, we love and care for our animals too.”

Instagram@rarebeauty 

Bare Minerals- Bare Minerals brand is 100% cruelty free and the high majority of their makeup is vegan. They make the list because of their strong commitment to mother earth. Bare Minerals runs an eco-friendly blog that regularly offers tips and advice to consumers on how to live a more sustainable life. Their products are all palm oil free, which makes them a viable option in selecting sustainable vegan makeup.

Each of these companies is working hard to provide the world with ethical and sustainable vegan beauty products. If makeup is part of your routine, consider shopping with one of these brands the next time you are in need of a new lipstick or brow pencil! 

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What To Do if You’re Feeling Like Miley | Vegan Scene

Washington (GGM) Analysis | June 1, 2021 by Sarah J. Kings

Whether you have been vegan for a long time or are new to the scene, you probably saw that Miley Cyrus made headlines last September after her interview with Joe Rogan on September 3rd. Cyrus shocked listeners and fans when she revealed that she is no longer vegan. Miley ditched meat in 2013, and since has been a major advocate for animal rights and veganism.  She has been actively involved in PETA campaigns and has spoken publicly about animal abuse on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. She even has the “Vegan Society Approved” symbol tattooed on her arm. So how could the woman that PETA declared to “Mrs. Vegan,” just leave the team? 

Instagram – @mileycyrus

In the interview with Joe Rogan, Miley said, “I’ve had to introduce fish and omegas into my life because my brain wasn’t functioning properly.” When a star that has inspired you during your vegan journey says something like this, it can get confusing. So, what should you do if you are feeling like Miley?

Eat a Variety of Whole Foods

What Miley is describing is called brain fog.  It is not associated with veganism— rather, it is a symptom of a variety of common ailments including anxiety, allergies, dehydration, and overall poor nutrition. Whether you are vegan or not, if you aren’t eating nutritious whole foods, you may suffer from brain fog. A ‘whole food’ is a single-ingredient unprocessed food–  like kale, broccoli, beets, or mushrooms–  and eating a wide variety of these plant-based babies will boost your brainpower and overall health. 

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B12 & B6

According to study results published by Empower Your Health Magazine, taking B vitamins reduces “the rate of developing brain atrophy, which has been connected to dementia and aging-related cognitive changes.” While many people say that B12 is only found naturally in meat, that’s not entirely true. B12 is produced naturally in bacteria, and most ‘livestock’ animals are given B12 supplements prior to slaughter, and many others are exposed to–  or even fed–  manure, which contributes to their ultimately adding B12 to the meat eater’s diet. In general, people have a hard time absorbing B12, and B12 deficiency is common among some people, even those who consume large quantities of meat. Vegans can easily get B12 from nutritional yeast, fortified cereals, supplements, and shots.

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Omega 3

Many people turn to Omegas when they are looking to improve their brain function. According to Healthline, Omega 3’s help with anxiety, promote eye health, reduce cardiovascular issues, and improve overall brain health. Miley said that she had to start eating fish to ‘introduce omegas’ into her life, but nobody has to do that. The fact is that walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, avocados, and many other whole foods provide more than enough Omega 3 to meet the 250 mg. daily minimum.

Twitter- @conciouslyveg

Iron

The daily iron requirement for men is about 18 mg per day, and for women, it is 19 mg per day. No matter if one claims to be a meat-eater, vegan, keto, or anything else, what you eat matters. A diet of Marshmallow Fluff sandwiches, french fries, and soda–  for example–  is going to eventually lead to Iron deficiency, which can lead to ‘brain fog.’ Many iron-rich vegan foods, including tofu, cashews, kale, lentils, chickpeas, and pumpkin seeds, can help you in your search for optimal health.

So, if you are ‘feeling like Miley’ or you’re worried about getting enough nutrients in your vegan diet, don’t fret. Veganism is completely healthy, and eating a balanced diet of plant-based whole foods with plenty of B vitamins, Omega 3s, and iron will surely keep any ‘brain fog’ away!


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